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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Look Ma, No Gluten!

Some things I've missed since I began my GF diet last November: convenience foods.   So many companies just don't provide enough information on their label for consumers to know if the product is "safe" for those of us with celiac disease. 

I finally got around to emailing my favorite barbecue sauce company and learned not only is Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce gluten free, they are going to change their label to indicate such.  YES!  I can have my favorite barbecue sauce again!!  Life is good!!

And then, quite by accident, I discovered that (at least some) Wishbone salad dressings are gluten free.  We had a potluck at work and I'd forgotten to bring my own salad dressing.  I checked out what some of the other people had brought.  Was pleasantly surprised to find Wishbone is GF!  I'm thrilled to pieces because I really haven't found an Italian salad dressing recipe I liked enough to make more than once.

Bottom line:  These products are much more economical than the specialty GF products, and they taste great.  AND I can spend a little less time in the kitchen - which means more time for quilting!  :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fabric Flowers (Playing with Fire)

The hem on this dress reminds me of the last time I let my sister cut my hair.  She couldn't get it even, so she took a little off one side, and then the other, and so on - until my hair was 6" shorter than expected.  Frustrated by the hem, I turned my attention to possible embellishments.  Found this great tutorial for making fabric flowers:

Feeling cranky, I immediately seized this opportunity to play with fire!  Heck, I needed to test my smoke alarms anyway.  (Kids - don't do this without adult supervision.)  Not to worry - the smoke alarms never made a peep.  Here is the resulting flower:

It needs a few beads in the center.  And I'll probably make a few more flowers for practice.  But ya know what?  I think I like it!  :)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Whad'ya Get...

...when you take lots of this, plus this... this... fresh garden herbs...
...and some TLC?
First you get this...then add tomato paste and just the right seasonings...
...and you get homemade spaghetti sauce.  Num!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Life is....

...what happens while you're doing other things!  Here's today's tomato harvest:

And yesterday's landscaping efforts - which weathered a considerable storm last night and will weather another shortly.  I'm amazed it's intact! 
When the weather clears, I'll mulch inside the border and plant more grass outside.    DS2 is restaining the deck.  When we get it all done it should look pretty darned good.

Other fun stuff goin' on: getting auto insurance quotes, both kids moving back home, dress fittings, converting my sewing room back to a bedroom, coping with a 3-week long allergic reaction to an unknown trigger.  Yeesh!

Through it all that little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering "Quilt.  Quilt.  Quilt."  Soon it will shout "Quilt NOW!" and I shall be forced to obey!  :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Caught Red-Handed!

HA!  Look who's been stealing my biggest and best tomatoes!  What a brat!

Better Late than Never

Here I am with my 8" tall green beans.  Sure am glad they finally decided to flower!
Below is my carrot patch - not much to look at now, but when I was weeding I uprooted a 2" carrot.  Scrubbed it up and had a nice snack.  Talk about farm to table freshness.  What a difference it makes.
When I watered this AM, I had four big red tomatoes on the vine.  Came home to discover the tomato bandit struck again.  Ate half of my best tomato.  GRRRR!  At this rate, 20% of my Big Boy Tomato harvest is being munched by critters.  I picked the others before he strikes again. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


 Despite a 30-year hiatus from garment construction, the dress I'm working on looks good so far.  But Step 14 was new to me!  To "understitch," the instructions say,"Press facing away from garment; press seam toward facing.  Facing side up, stitch close to seam through facing and seam allowance."  Come again?
In this picture, the upper side of the strap has not yet been understitched.  The lower side has been understitched and turned - to make a very soft, pretty edge.  If any experienced dressmakers read this post, can you please suggest what sort of interfacing is used for dresses these days?  I had fusible web on hand, but it created too much bulk.  Once I figured the understitching thing out, I still had some trouble wrestling the interfacings into submission.  Also, this pattern does not come with a sleeveless option.  I had trouble fitting my homemade interfacing pattern to the arm hole.  Seems like it was easier when I made the mock-up dress out of muslin.  But this slippery, solid fabric is harder to work with and shows every little flaw.  For instance, in this picture it looks like the right shoulder strap is askew, but when I examined it, I realized the dress will lay just right when there is a 3-D person wearing it, rather than a 2-D hanger.
Assuming the dress fits Miss Kami properly, I'll be making it one more time, in floor length, in Ivory Peach, as part of a Zelda costume that will look something like this:
I am to be in charge of the ivory and purple portion of the dress.  Kami will be in charge of the rest.  Will have to report later on how this project progresses!  :)

Happiness Is....

...getting your favorite sewing scissors back from being sharpened!  :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Naughty Tomato

Each day I come home from work, eagerly awaiting the day's harvest.  I've learned to pick my red tomatoes one day earlier - before the critters can snack on them.  THIS particular tomato, has a back side that looks just like, well, um, a baby's back side!
Doesn't it???  DS2 was mowing the lawn when I held the tomato up for him to see.  Though no words were spoken...he immediately burst out laughing.  I guess we're easily amused!  :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Dress and a Dinosaur (or Two)

My Janome Horizon acted up last week, and went in to the shop.  I consoled myself by visiting some fabric stores and researching a costume I am to make for a friend.  Said friend also needs a dress to wear to a wedding in mid-September, and wanted it in ice blue.  So guess what I found on sale?  I'm making the upper right view, without the drape.  Even the thread is named Ice Blue.  I took this as a good omen.

After cutting out the dress, and having rather low expectations as to what my old (1970s) sewing machine might do to a few satiny scraps, I unearthed my Sears Kenmore.  Ain't she a beauty? 

I fully expected the old girl to make mincemeat out of the fabric.  To my surprise, the fabric fed smoothly and the tension was about right!  So I went ahead and did the stay-stitching, figuring it wouldn't show anyway. 
As you can see, my Kenmore and I were in the I just kept going.  As I stitched, I tried to remember the last time I put in a zipper.  1984!  The last time I remember making a dress was before that.  At this point I felt a kinship with my trusty, old Kenmore - she was there for me then, and now in my hour of need.  Had to chuckle, because in some (considerably younger) people's eyes, I am a bit of a dinosaur myself! 

Though my flash bulb makes the fabric look overly bright, it actually has a soft sheen.  Very pretty.  I need to take out the top stitching that I did against my better judgement.  I'm removing that with a tweezers so as not to snag the fabric.  Then I'll finish the second arm hole and tack down the interfacings.  This weekend we hope to visit Kami, so I can take the dress in. 
I actually made this dress once before in muslin - thank goodness - because I wanted to be sure it fit right before cutting the costume fabric.  The results were dissappointing.  I made cutting errors which affected the length of the dress, and even though Miss Kami weighs about 95 lbs and is very slim and trim, and the dress came up about 4" short at the waist.  Go figure!  Maybe the designers thought women still wear corsets?  At any rate, in cutting out the blue dress, I added 1/2" to all 6 seams that are tapered at the waist, and added 3/8" to the center front fold.  So now I'll need take the waist in accordingly.  Then I'll need to hem it.  Wondering if I could do all that in one trip....thinking it'll take two. 

But that's OK - it provides a good excuse for one or more road trips to Platteville, WI, where I can visit Hidden Quilts and the Driftless Market. 

This dress will also keep me away from my latest quilt project (Quodlibet) until after I have taken a class at the Wisconsin Public Television/Nancy Zieman Productions Quilt Expo - where I'll learn to quilt in sections.  I'd been itching to put that quilt all together, rather than waiting.  So the dress is a wonderful diversion.  Lots of sewing/quilting fun in store in August and September.  :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Green Beans & Japanese Beetles

It's official.  My green beans are over the top - of the swing set, that is!
But look at these Japanese beetles!  Yuck.  First they ate the impatiens, then they hit the tomatoes and now they're on the green beans.  I visited a green house to figure out what to do about them.  Turns out they have a life cycle of only a month - which is about how long they've been around.  One can put out some sort of disk to attract them away from your garden, but that only draws more to your yard.  I was advised to ignore them for a few more days and then they'll be gone.  I can handle that!
I also learned that I over-fertilized my green beans.  They don't like any fertilizer that has nitrogen as the first ingredient.  It should come second.  Despite my overzealous use of Miracle Grow, today I spied several buds.  So again, if I just let them be, I may still get a good harvest.  That's my kind of problem solving!  :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quodlibet in Thirds

Its been a long time since I worked on a full sized quilt.  Now I remember why!  There's no where in this house where I can lay the entire thing out.  It's a little distracting when two thirds are in one room and one third is in another.  But I think I finally got it all figured out.  Can you spot the second "RJ" in the picture above?
The last "RJ" is pretty easy to spot on the design wall, but will be less prominent when the black lattice is added.  I swear I've ripped more on this quilt than I've sewn!  Half way through I decided to cut back on the white blocks.  This involved a lot of ripping - but I'll blame it on my undersized design wall.  All's well that ends well.  :)

Chris's Favorite GF Bread

Although I use a box mix, I've modified the mixing and baking procedure to produce a lighter, larger, more flavorful loaf.  Like traditional wheat bread, I allow the dough to rise twice.  This gives it more time to develop the characteristic yeast flavor and a finer, more even texture.  This bread makes an excellent peanut butter sandwich that can be eaten at room temperature - the ultimate palatability test for GF bread!

You'll need:

Heavy Duty Stand Mixer - hand held mixers will not do the job
Wire Whip Attachment - do not use a dough hook
2 Wilton 9 x 5" bread pans - do not use shiny or dark nonstick pans
Kitchen Timer
Time & Patience - From the time you begin mixing ingredients to the time the bread is  sliced and put away is about 4 hours.  So I bake two loaves at a time, every other week.


2 boxes Gluten Free Pantry Favorite Sandwich Mix (includes yeast packet)
1/2 c. canola oil or melted butter
4 eggs (or 2 whole eggs and 4 egg whites)
3 1/2 cups water or skim milk


Slowly mix eggs in mixing bowl to break yolks.  Gradually add oil and water.  With beater still on low, sprinkle both yeast packets into liquid mixture.  Then add both bags of bread mix, one at a time.  Turn beater speed up to medium speed, and beat for 3 minutes.
Cover mixer bowl with a damp towel for about 35 minutes.  While waiting, prepare your pans and foil tents.  Spray pans lightly with any GF cooking spray.  I use a canola spray.  Set pans aside. Fold two piecees of aluminum foil, shiny side up, as pictured to cover loaves as they bake.
After first rising, beat on low speed for 60 seconds. 
Scrape dough into pans.  Use a wet spatula to spread dough evenly across each pan and smooth top of dough.  You will need to moisten the spatula several times, and dough will look glossy on top.

Cover both pans with a damp towel and allow to rise for 35 minutes, or until dough reaches 1/2 inch below edge of pan (whichever comes first).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

After second rising, place pans in center of preheated oven.  Bake for 10 minutes, then cover each pan loosely with foil tent to prevent excess browning.
Bake an additional 45-50 minutes. Using a thermometer, make sure the center of the bread has reached 200 degrees or higher. If bread is not fully cooked, it is likely to fall as it cools.  When bread reaches 200 degrees, place pans on cooling racks for 10-15 minutes. 

Then turn bread out onto rack.  Allow to cool at least one hour before slicing.  Ideally, you would not slice the bread until completely cool.  GF baked goods need time to "firm up" as they cool.  Handling a warm loaf will damage the bread's structure.

Slice loaves.  I divide my bread into 4 bags, each containing 1/2 loaf.  Three go to into the freezer, and one goes into the refrigerator.  When I get down to my last few pieces of refrigerated bread, I pull a frozen bag out and put that in the refrigerator.  This way you only need to microwave the bread 15-20 seconds to take the chill off - rather than trying to work with frozen bread slices.  I cut the heels into cubes for stuffing or croutons, and brush the crumbs into a small container I keep in the frig for sprinkling bread crumbs on top of baked fish.

While I love the flavor of this product, I have struggled with the fact that the baking instructions on the box result in a loaf that is raw in the middle.  I also object to the statement on the box saying it's a cholesterol free food.  Yes, it is - in the box!  But if you make it according to the instructions - with 2 whole eggs per loaf, you've now had your weekly allotment of egg yolks. Yes, one can substitute egg whites - but the claim on the box is misleading.  I have contacted the company, and received only the standard response (thank you for your interest...etc., etc., etc.).

Despite these misgivings, I keep coming back to this bread.  It simply has the best flavor and moisture content.  I hope you enjoy this bread as much as I do! :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Quodlibet - Nine Rows

Nine rows are complete, with three left on the design wall.  I can't decide which is harder - trying to make blocks line up in rows (as usual) or trying to make sure they DON'T line up, as directed for this quilt.  RJ's initials will appear in this quilt three times.  Can you spot the first set?
Now can you see them?  :)

I Can Almost Taste It!

My first tomato is ripening...Never has a single tomato been so anticipated.  I'm looking forward to slicing it and drizzling with vinegar & oil dressing.  Maybe tomorrow!
All 8 pepper plants are bearing fruit.  They are supposed to change color as they ripen, but I can no longer recall which will be red, green or yellow.  Will just have to wait and see.  :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Quodlibet - Control Rows

What here-to-for appeared to be a mishmash of incongruent blocks is actually beginning to look like a quilt.  To be honest, I was a little worried.  Some blocks didn't make the cut.  It remains to be seen if I made the correct number and color blocks to fill out the quilt.  I interpreted "light" and "dark" too literally, when in fact red should have been my "light."  Though this picture makes it look as if the bottom row is narrower than the top, they measure up just fine.  I think this is the best part of quilting - when it finally comes together and you can see results!  :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quodlibet Blocks

Hot weather gave me an excuse to do less gardening and more stitching.  The great thing about the Quodlibet pattern is the freedom to switch it up and try new things.  I never was very good at flying geese before, but feel pretty comfortable making them now.  A few of the checker board squares were the result of mismeasuring, but I liked how they turned out and they'll fit quite nicely.  The directions say "When assembling the quilt, blocks will be chopped off to make rows fit, a crooked seam here and there will add interest, this quilt is meant to have a more freeform look, so just have fun creating."  And that is exactly what I have been doing!  I'm working on zig zag blocks now.  

FYI - A quodlibet is "a whimsical combination of familiar melodies or texts."  The quilt is designed by Judy Hasheider, from Quilt with Judy.  I emailed her with some questions( and she was very helpful.  I'm partial to some of her other designs, which can be found at  :)

Garden Report, Then & Now

What a difference between August 1 and June 2 (below)!
When you sit on the porch swing, it feels like your own private gazebo.  The tomatoes grew well beyond the towers I set up, so 5 of the 8 plants are now tied up to the A-frame structure.  The one on the right will most likely be taller than I am by the weekend.  The herbs have outgrown the back stoop and now are in full sun.  The lemon basil is fantastic.  All my pepper and tomato plants are bearing fruit.  This has surpassed my wildest dreams.  After more than a decade of shade gardening, this is a refreshing change!  I suspect I'll be sharing some tomato recipes very soon.  :)